WASHINGTON — Sometimes it can be too darn hot even for a lizard.
Cold-blooded creatures that have to soak up the rays to get going might seem like the last animals you would expect to be threatened by heat.
Well, you would be wrong, researchers say.
It turns out lizards are going extinct in many places, and scientists who have studied them say it's because of rising temperatures. The heat affects reproduction.
"The results were clear. These lizards need to bask in the sun to warm up, but if it gets too hot they have to retreat into the shade, and then they can't hunt for food," said Barry Sinervo of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
He said he was "stunned and saddened" by the finding, reported in today's edition of the journal Science.
Lizards are an important part of the food chain because they are major consumers of insects and in turn are eaten by birds, snakes and other animals.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Sinervo said. "It heralds that we have entered a new age, the age of climate-forced extinctions. Extinctions are not in the future. They are happening now."